Summer drought decreases Leymus chinensis productivity through constraining the bud, tiller and shoot production

Junfeng Wang*, Yujie Shi, Yunna Ao, Dafu Yu, Jiao Wang, Song Gao, Johannes M.H. Knops, Chunsheng Mu, Zhijian Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Extreme drought events can directly decrease productivity in perennial grasslands. However, for rhizomatous perennial grasses it remains unknown how drought events influence the belowground bud bank which determines future productivity. Ninety-day-long drought events imposed on Leymus chinensis, a rhizomatous perennial grass, caused a 41% decrease in the aboveground biomass and a 28% decrease in belowground biomass. Aboveground biomass decreased due to decrease in both the parent and the daughter shoot biomass. The decreases in daughter shoot biomass were due to reductions in both the shoot number and each individual shoot weight. Most importantly, drought decreased the bud bank density by 56%. In addition, drought induced a bud allocation change that decreased by 41% the proportion of buds that developed into shoots and a 41% increase in the buds that developed into rhizomes. Above results were supported by our field experiment with watering treatments. Thus, a 90-day-long summer drought event decreases not only current productivity but also future productivity, because the drought reduces the absolute bud number. However, plasticity in plant development does partly compensate for this reduction in bud number by increasing bud development into rhizomes, which increases the relative allocation of buds into future shoots, at the cost of a decrease in current shoots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-561
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Agronomy and Crop Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Eurasian steppe
  • belowground meristem
  • biomass production
  • forage
  • long-lived grass
  • water limitation

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